Daily Bookbag: 24 Feb 2015

How do you choose what to read next? I know some people who only own a few unread books, and people who only check out one or two books at a time from their local library, reading and returning each one before choosing their next library book. I also know a lot of people who may only read one or two books in an entire month, crazy as that seems. When you only read one or two books in a month, choosing the right books is more vitally important, but you only have to make that choice up to 24 times in an entire year.

Well, I am currently in the middle of 10 different books, and I read at least 15 books each month. So far this year I have read 64 books, and there have only been 55 days in the year so far. At that reading rate, choosing what to read is a bit of a different game.

Most of the time I read a wide variety of books, choosing what to read next by what is on the top of the stack of books closest to me, or by how I feel at the time. I am in the middle of – a historical novel set in Ireland and England in the early 1800’s, a fantasy novel about fraudulant dragon hunters, a murder mystery with a natural dyes crafting theme, an ARC of an adventure novel set in the early US frontier, a murder mystery set in the South with an antique pottery theme, a nonfiction ode to drummers, and a few other books. The variety is actually part of why I can read so much in a year, because if I start burning out on one uthor or story, I can shift gears and read something else for a while. (I am also a professional books/music critic and blogger, so reading a lot is kinda part of the job.)

Lately though I have been thinking it would be nice to stick to just one author at a time, for a while. Being reasonable, I may choose 2, one in fantasy and one in mystery/crime, but because of my Read Your Library Challenge, I do actually have a lot of books checked out by certain authors who are well represented at my local public library. I’m still finishing the books I’ve already started, of course, but as I finish them, I’m swapping in only books by Susan Wittig Albert and Kevin J. Anderson, for a while anyway. It helps that a) I am already reading one of each of their books now, b) several of the books I have checked out by these authors will be due soon, and c) when I finish all the books I have checked out by these authors I’ll be much closer to checking off not just the first fiction shelf of the library, but the first 2 shelves. (Actually, for this last reason, I may still read a few other library books this week- oh to be completely done with a whole shelf of the library! … at least till they acquire new books by authors whose names begin with Aa-Alb.)

Susan Wittig Albert, for my readers who may have missed my earlierposts  mentioning her books, writes series of murder mysteries in which the sleuths are female. Her writing style seems geared towards a female audience as well, though I am certain that many male readers would also love her books. Having just read Stephen King’s book On Writing (which I finished this morning), I was noticing last night how many of Stephen King’s ‘rules’ Albert breaks in her writing, especially when it comes to character descriptions, descriptions in general, and back story. But, while occasionally I think the bits I am less fond of in Albert’s books are in fact weaker for reasons King’s book could suggest, overall Albert’s writing works well. For one thing, women (by nature or just because we are raised to think about clothes differently) really do get a lot of character information from specifics about what a character is wearing. So, while King is right that rarely do we need to know the specific details about a character’s outfit for the storyto make sense, Albert’s characters are relatable in part because we know people in our own lives who dress ‘like that’ and can thus extrapolate more personality into the fiction character. We also know how we feel when we choose outfits like what we are reading. It’s maybe a bit silly-sounding and superficial for male readers who have lived their whole lives in jeans and tshirts and whatever nicer clothes their family bought them, but for many women clothes really are part of the story.

Susan Wittig Albert also has a sort of gimmick in her novels that she includes recipes and craft instructions as part of her stories. If the characters bake a batch of their favorite cookies, the recipe for those cookies can be found either in the chapter or in a section at the end of the book. Some of those recipes sound very tasty and are on my stack of foods to try making in the near future. The book I am reading now by this author, Indigo Dying, has no recipe section (which I was a bit disappointed about), but if you pay attention to the instructions in the story itself, the book is sort of a combination of a murder mystery, a story about environmental degredation and strip mining in Texas, and a natural dyes workshop. If you buy this author’s books, rather than just checking them out from your library as I’m doing, you’ll have a lot of handy information stored in your bookshelf in these series, along with some entertaining stories. And, they tend to be fast, easy reading, even while you are learning stuff. I’m enjoying them.

Kevin J. Anderson is a Colorado author (though authors can and do move around, so he may or may not be actually in residence here now to enjoy the snow and ice of our latest Front Range storm). The first books I read by this author were Clockwork Angels (& yes, there are several other books with the same or similar titles by other authors. This one is good.), and Hair Raising (a murder mystery/crime novel, but the detective is a zombie and the victims are werewolves who are being attacked and scalped). Our library, like many other public libraries, has a hard time with keeping whole series available in the library system, let alone in one branch library, so some of Anderson’s books that are fantasy series are more frustrating.

I always prefer to read series in order, and may actually hold onto novels unread for many years while waiting to find the first book in the series. In Albert’s series each murder is independent of the others in the series, enough that readers won’t be lost if they read the series out of order. Her Darling Dahlias series may be a bit more fun if read in order, but I read book 4 first and then book 1 (and books 2 and 3 are not in our library at the moment for me to read) and they worked fine.With Anderson’s books, even though I loved his writing in the ones I’ve already read, I have been slow to check out more because I want to read the book 1’s first and often the only books available at the library are later novels in the series. Vague, I know, but once I’ve read book 1 and can tell you about it, I’ll also have a better idea about what all Anderson’s written.

At the moment I am reading a stand-alone novel of his,  The Dragon Business, about fraudulant dragon hunters who make up fake dragon attacks and hire themselves out as dragon slayers, with some lucrative success. And, I did finally check out a book 1- The Edge of the World, the first book in Anderson’s Terra Incognita series. So that’s what I’m reading next by Anderson.

What are you reading this week?

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About Ravenmount

Independent music blogger/arts enthusiast/theorist currently working in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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